Memories of Thanksgiving warm the soul

Features column

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I don’t know who said that first, but with each passing year, each fleeting moment, I believe it more and more. It’s been 10 years since I wrote about Thanksgivings I remember as a child and, looking back, I realized I couldn’t say more. Things have changed, but the memories of Thanksgiving Day for me will always be something like this ...

I wish it came in a box, so I could pull it out whenever I felt like it.

It’s the smell ... or maybe it’s the sound ... probably both, I suppose, combined with all of the other little things that thread together to form a blanket of memories for my soul.

Thanksgiving Day. As a child, it was magical. And if I search deep enough, I can still hear it, feel it, taste it.

The hours before sunlight. Snuggled deep in layers of covers long before we ventured to put our own feet on the floor, we would hear my mother padding around the kitchen. The swish of her housecoat. The oven door creaking open for a peek at the main attraction. The shuffle of pans for the bread and pots for the peas and the rice and the gravy that would soon be simmering softly on the back burners.

Smells. None are quite so perfect as those that waft from the kitchen and sneak under the doorways on Thanksgiving Day. The bird carefully checked each hour on the hour throughout the darkness of night is now the color of warm caramel. A heavenly cloud of warm, sweet goodness escapes with each opening of the oven.

Cornbread. Homemade cornbread, baked the night before and crumbled amongst onions and celery and eggs and all those other secret ingredients only your own mother knows. Baked to the peak of perfection, waiting to be smothered with gravy that bubbles with bits of eggs and broth and tender chicken.

Each one got their favorite. All six of us. Green beans. Carrots. Tiny round green peas. I’m not sure who called tiny green peas their favorite, but they were always there. And we always ate them. They were comfort food, and the day would not be the same without them.

The sweet potatoes. The desserts.

Creamy orange perfection tousled with melted butter and brown sugar and warmed by a blanket of tiny marshmallows. Crunchy sugared pecans tossed throughout pies trimmed in the flakiest crusts. Cakes – layers upon layers of chocolate and coconut. Bananas swimming in pudding, whipped cream and wafers.

But far greater than the feast before our eyes was the sating of our hearts. All of us, together. Always an extra seat or two set at the table for someone otherwise alone. Peace among chaos. That was our house.

I can still hear it. Taste it. Feel it.

But what makes thoughts of Thanksgiving all the more precious is that every year another memory is added. Pine cones and construction paper turkey feathers. Fall leaves. My husband asks for seconds of his favorite sweet potato casserole. Another voice wonders aloud, “Who really likes the little round green peas?” And then they eat them anyway.

Then the next day comes and another Thanksgiving is only a memory.

But every now and then my own children and I will snuggle up close and unfold that blanket of memories made larger each passing year.

And together we will warm our souls.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Like Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours. May your soul be warmed by precious memories and blessed with many new ones.

Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.